For the next few posts, I want to talk about this year’s cookbooks I recommend. Every year there are a zillion books that come out—and I want to get all of them. Unfortunately, D’Ahub and Girlfriend need some space for their books, too, so I have to limit myself to certain categories. The categories I’ve chosen for this year are: baking (duh), gluten-free baking (more duh), canning and preserving, vegetables I like, and tea. I think that covers all of my favorite food groups.
Today I want to talk about Flavor Flours: A New Way to Bake with Teff, Buckwheat, Sorghum, Other Whole & Ancient Grains, Nuts & Non-Wheat Flours, by Alice Medrich with Maya Klein. This book is a must-have for the baker—gluten-free or not. Medrich and Klein created a book that is not only full of wonderful (gluten-free) recipes, but a book that explores and takes advantage of the flavors and qualities of each individual flour. This is a game changer.
There are a lot of books out there that use a variety of gluten-free flours for baking, but this one is different because it pays particular attention to the flavor profiles of the flours and the ingredients with which they are paired. Each chapter is based on a flour (Rice, Oat, Chestnut, Teff, Corn, Buckwheat, Sorghum, Nut and Coconut Flours). And, at the beginning of the chapters there is a description of the flour and its historical and geographic provenance. What I find extraordinarily valuable is that this introductory information also includes a “Flavor Affinities” section for each flour. Here Medrich and Klein have done their homework and have provided the other ingredients that play well with each flour, including things like butter, various nuts, fruits, and spices. This is invaluable information. They then provide a series of recipes that capitalize on these flavor partnerships.
When I first get a new cookbook, I go through and put a Post-It note on each page with a recipe I want to try. Of course, I followed this procedure here. The problem I had here: There is now a forest of Post-It notes coming off of the pages of Flavor Flours! I want to make all of the recipes—even for things I wouldn’t normally want to bake. For example, I was immediately drawn to the Corn Flour Tea Cake With Currants and Pistachios. I am generally not a major fan of corn, pistachios, or anise seed. But it turns out that the combination is a knock-out! I had the honor and pleasure of baking for a book event for Medrich when she was in town—and I made this cake. It was a hit. People asked for seconds and thirds. Of course, it has now come into regular rotation at our house.
In addition, the authors include a nice variety of baked items: tea cakes, brownies (of course there is chocolate here! The Teff Brownies are to die for), crepes, waffles, layer cakes, tarts, cobblers, scones, cookies, and meringues. I’m always looking for different baked goods to take to parties or for when friends come over and this book has provided me with a plethora of options for every type of occasion and taste preference.
Full disclosure: over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Alice on a personal basis. When she comes to town, we get together for breakfast or lunch and chat about life and baking. You can imagine what a thrill this is for me: I’ve been a die-hard fan-girl of Alice’s for years and years. I have every one of her books. She is one of my “Baking Goddesses.” I feel beyond lucky that I can now call her a friend and a colleague. Each time we chat, I am struck by how thoughtful she is about the craft of baking. Of course, she tests her recipes like crazy—she is known for this and her excellent books reflect this. And she is always open to learning. For this book, I am enormously grateful that even though she eats wheat, she is respectful of gluten-free folks and asks questions that allow her to create recipes that are delicious and that address needs of the gluten-free world. In addition, her writing and researching partner, Ms. Klein, is gluten-free and is dedicated to getting it right. I am so thankful to them for creating this book—and I highly recommends that you add it to your baking shelf!
(Note: if you buy the book via the above link to Amazon, I receive a tiny percentage of the sale)
Corn Flour Tea Cake with Currants and Pistachio
-Adapted from Flavor Flours
8 ½ by 4-½ in/21.6 by 11.43 cm (6 cup) loaf pan
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (180 grams) white rice flour or 1 3/4 cups (180 grams) Thai white rice flour (be sure the brand you use is gluten-free)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (50 grams) corn flour (be sure the brand you use is gluten-free)
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (180 grams) granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick/115 grams) unsalted butter, very soft
Scant ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
¾ cup (175 ml) plain yogurt (any percent fat) or slightly watered-down Greek yogurt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon aniseed
½ cup dried currants
½ cup (50 grams) chopped toasted pistachio nuts (I use unsalted)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.
Combine the rice and corn flours, sugar, butter, and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until the mixture has the texture of brown sugar, about a minute. Add the baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and aniseed and beat at medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes; the batter should be very smooth and fluffy. Beat in the currants and nuts on low speed.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and dry. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes then carefully turn out onto wire rack to cool completely. The cake keeps for up to 3 days at room temperature in an airtight container.